'09 NFL draft: Top 10 QB prospects
Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are clearly best quarterbacks
Kansas State's Josh Freeman could open some eyes at the combine
Clemson's Cullen Harper fell from grace after dismal senior season
With the NFL combine set to begin this week in Indianapolis, SI.com's Bucky Brooks, a former scout, is ranking the top 2009 draft prospects by position group. The lists were compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and game-tape evaluations. The schedule will be as follows:
1. Matthew Stafford, Georgia: The former Bulldog completed more than 60 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,459 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. As a polished pocket passer with outstanding arm strength and touch, Stafford is at ease directing a pro-style offense. Though he occasionally gets sloppy with his footwork and fundamentals in the pocket, Stafford is the most "pro ready" prospect at the position and will eventually develop into a quality starter.
2. Mark Sanchez, Southern California: The Pac-10's leading passer surprised many with his decision to enter the draft after only one full season as the Trojans' starter. While scouts will downgrade him for his lack of game experience, Sanchez is highly regarded as a pro prospect due to his outstanding physical tools and leadership ability. His spectacular Rose Bowl performance (28-of-35 for 413 passing yards with four touchdowns) is why some view him as a potential franchise-type quarterback.
3. Josh Freeman, Kansas State: As a talented playmaker with a big arm and prototypical size (6-foot-6, 248 pounds), Freeman is likely to shoot up draft boards if he has a strong showing at the combine. Though Freeman leaves as the Wildcats' all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and total offense, some scouts will poke holes in his game due to his propensity to turn the ball over (34 interceptions in three seasons) and his mediocre record as a starter (14-18). Freeman carries a second-round grade on most boards, but could end up as a late first-round selection.
4. Nate Davis, Ball State: The strong-armed junior completed more than 64 percent of his passes while guiding the Cardinals to a nearly unbeaten regular season. Though Davis finished the season with a pair of disappointing showings, scouts love his pocket presence and improvisational skills. His game should translate well to the pros, making him the latest MAC quarterback (Miami's Ben Roethlisberger, Marshall's Chad Pennington) to find success in the league.
5. Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State: The former Sooner overcame a series of off-field issues to put together a productive career at Sam Houston State. Noted for his strong arm and underrated athleticism, Bomar passed for more than 3,400 yards with 27 touchdowns as a senior, and flashed the ability to develop into a quality starter as a pro. If he can convince scouts that his character concerns are a thing of the past, Bomar could wind up as the biggest draft day sleeper.
6. Pat White, West Virginia: The NCAA's all-time rushing leader for quarterbacks has outstanding playmaking ability, but scouts question whether he has the accuracy and touch to develop into a pro-caliber pocket passer. Some teams envision White as a potential utility player who can play receiver/returner/third quarterback. With more teams experimenting with the "Wildcat" formation, White figures to be an intriguing possibility in the middle of the draft.
7. Nathan Brown, Central Arkansas: The small-school standout lacks ideal height but impresses scouts with his instincts and intangibles. He anticipates routes well and displays great awareness by working through progressions quickly under duress. Although he doesn't have the strongest arm, Brown's zip and accuracy are rated above average by most evaluators. That makes him worthy of consideration as a mid-to-late round prospect.
8. Brian Hoyer, Michigan State: After a disappointing senior season, Hoyer was viewed as a free-agent prospect heading into offseason. But a stellar showing at the East-West Shrine Game has scouts rethinking. Blessed with a strong arm, ideal size, and experience running a pro-style offense, Hoyer has convinced a number of scouts that he has the potential to develop into a solid backup.
9. Cullen Harper, Clemson: Once regarded as a highly touted prospect, Harper struggled through an up-and-down senior season. Though he finished as the ACC's leading passer, he finished with a negative touchdown-to-interception differential (13 touchdowns, 14 interceptions). If scouts believe Harper can regain the exceptional form he displayed as a junior, he may go in the latter stages of the draft.
10. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' prolific gunslinger compiled gaudy statistics while directing Tech's wide-open offense. However, his eye-popping numbers don't mask his lack of ideal measurables (scouts question his size, arm strength and ability to run an offense from under center). With Harrell's Red Raider predecessors (Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie) failing to cut it in the league, some scouts view him as another system quarterback with limited upside.